THE CALLING - Inger Ash Wolfe

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The Calling
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Book Synopsis

A small town - sleepy, remote, safe ... and unprepared when a deadly visitor comes calling.

Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef of Port Dundas, Canada, is making her way towards retirement with something less than grace.  Hobbled by a bad back and a dependence on painkillers, and blindsided by her recent divorce, sixty-one year-old Hazel has only the constructive criticism of her old goat of a mother to buoy her.

But when a Port Dundas woman is found murdered in her home - with no sign of resistance and her mouth sculptured into a strangely meaningful shape - Hazel's bickering department springs to life.  And as more bodies are found, she must confront a clamouring press and the town's rumour mill whilst she edges ever closer to this terrifying, gruesomely inventive serial killer.

Book Review

THE CALLING is one of those books.  One of those books that I found sometimes utterly compelling; was bored witless in some passages; laughed out loud in others; found myself heartily confused about some of the procedural elements; and was slightly repelled by some parts.

It is a serial killer book, and I will admit that I'm getting to the point where I'm over the whole serial killer thing.  I'm particularly over the barking mad, out there motive serial killer thing.  And there's certainly a barking mad impetus behind the killer in THE CALLING.  Luckily, the plot is a little intriguing and how on earth he's managed to select and convince his victims to co-operate (up to a point) did mitigate the predictable elements somewhat.

DI Hazel Micallef is a great character - fiesty, compassionate, very realistic.  The fallout from her divorce wasn't over-blown and she's certainly somebody that you can "get a handle on", empathise with.  At points she was flat out funny.  The relationship with her mother is hugely enjoyable.

There is a great sense of small town Canada throughout the book - albeit not the main point of the plots or the book as a whole, but there were nice little glimpses into life in Port Dundas, and the relationship between the small towns and the larger metropolitan areas.

The violence implicit in the killings was well handled - most of the very worst off camera, enough of the icky to the forefront to enhance our killer's extremely creepy persona.  (Mind you, once in a while a serial killer that wasn't just weird would probably be a lot more chilling.)

The oddity that kept wrong-footing me at points though was a procedural element (and it's probably my fault) but I couldn't quite believe that a multi-location serial killer, ranging across the entire of a country like Canada would remain a small-town extremely local investigation with Hazel directing activities in far-flung locations.  It might well happen that way - THE CALLING didn't quite convince me of the authenticity of this approach.

But as serial killer books goes, THE CALLING was okay - it's not the best crime book I've read in a long while, but it's certainly not the worst, and I'd recommend anyone looking for a strong female character, who can handle a bit of creepy and a bit of gore to try it out.

POSTSCRIPT:  Inger Ash Wolfe is flagged as a pseudonym for a prominent North American literary novelist.  I don't know why people play these games, but knowing / not knowing who the author is doesn't affect how the book reads, and besides, I didn't think the book was so bad that the author needs to hide their identity.

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